Lessons Learned Off My Feet
By Laura Braden
There’s nothing like six weeks off your feet to jolt you back to life.
This past December, I had surgery on both feet to fix some arthritic issues (#WelcomeToYour30s). The surgery itself was pretty minor, but it takes FOREVER for feet to heal so I sat out Christmas, New Years, the women’s march and a whole host of events to give my feet time and space to heal properly.
And living on my couch for the past 51 days (but who’s counting?) has resulted in a few “aha!” moments that might help others make changes they’ve been delaying for a while…
Your Health is Everything
Up until this point, I’ve been extremely blessed with amazing health: no hospital visits, allergies, broken bones or pre-existing conditions.
And I’ve taken it one hundred percent for granted.
Losing the ability to drive or walk, combined with the actual pain, was the slap in the face I needed to finally put my health in the proper order of priorities. This isn’t about dieting or even resolutions…it’s about listening to my body and making the time to eat right, get moving and practice self-care.
I now realize happiness requires “suffering” and even the best decisions come with trade-offs or consequences. I know that’s a bit contradicting, but hear me out. Or rather, hear out entrepreneur Mark Manson:
“Everybody wants to have an amazing job and financial independence — but not everyone is willing to suffer through 60-hour work weeks, long commutes, obnoxious paperwork, to navigate arbitrary corporate hierarchies and the blasé confines of an infinite cubicle hell. People want to be rich without the risk, without the delayed gratification necessary to accumulate wealth.
…at the core of all human behavior, the good feelings we all want are more or less the same. Therefore what we get out of life is not determined by the good feelings we desire but by what bad feelings we’re willing to sustain.”
Because I will never enjoy working out. I will never enjoy eating healthy. But I want to be able to travel, hike and explore in my sixties and beyond. And I’d really like my pants to fit.
So I will “suffer” the unfulfillment of my emotional cravings by eating right. I will “suffer” through workouts so that my body is strong. And I will seek medical attention anytime my body isn’t acting or feeling right.
That last part I want to scream from the rooftops to our twenty-something readers. Because that whole I-feel-invincible thing was real…until I hit my thirties. And then my body started to decline in real and superficial ways.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone: I know thirty-somethings who almost went blind or needed a hip replacement. Others who almost let alcohol ruin their careers because they couldn’t accept the fact they couldn’t rage like they used to and still have their shit together.
Healthy, smart women almost had to endure serious health care issues because they waited to seek treatment. And it took me two years of not being able to wear high heels, laughing off wearing Crocs (they seriously make amazing flats) and grimacing through every step of pain before saying anything to my doctor. Now, how ridiculous does that sound??
So ladies – listen to your bodies, and give it the tender loving care it deserves.
Work-Life Balance is a Pipe Dream – But You Should Still Try
I’ve also realized that a big part of self-care is in maintaining a healthy balance – however you define it.
For me, I tend to…overextend myself. I prefer a packed calendar and have a hard time saying no. All of this self-induced activity can leave me exhausted, run down and depleted. Beyond the health implications, it also lessens your impact: how can you truly give one hundred percent when you’re slicing and dicing your time and energy so thinly?
I took a hard look at everything I was involved in, and asked myself – what issues am I most passionate about? Where can I make the most impact? Where can my particular skill set best be utilized?
Once I answered those questions, the paring down process became a bit easier. I realized that it’s not about removing things from your life, but rather ensuring that everything in your life supports a balanced and healthy human being.
The old adage, “you can have everything – just not at once” resonates more with me each day. And that recognition has thankfully forced me to prioritize where and how I spend my time.
So there you have it. My first-world-problem epiphanies that I should have realized years ago, but if knowing is half the battle, and acceptance is the first step – I’m well on way.
Bonus Lessons: Dogs are the Best Medicine
This chapter in my life also reminded me why I prefer dogs to ninety percent of people – because their love knows no limits. Betty White (the white one in the forefront) didn’t leave my side for one second. They could tell when I was in pain, and the cuddles would commence. They helped keep me calm/grounded, and as grateful as I am for all of my “human” help, I would have gone crazy without their company and love.
FROM THE EDITORS: We want to hear from YOU! What lessons have you learned that might help others? Submit your stories at girlsonthegridATgmail.com.